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Criminal Intent

A survey of recent wildfire arson



According to the National Fire Protection Association's 2014 "Intentional Fires" report, from 2007 to 2011, an estimated 282,600 intentional fires were reported to fire departments annually. Outside or unclassified fires accounted for 75 percent of these incidents. One in five arson cases were cleared by arrest or exceptional means, and two out of five of the individuals arrested for arson were under 18 years of age.

The National Park Service website plainly states that as many as 90 percent of wildfires in the United States are human-caused, starting from unattended campfires, debris burns, carelessly discarded cigarettes or intentional acts of arson.

A few of the big ones:

Hayman Fire

Denver, Colorado, 2002

Cost: $238 million

Destruction: 137,760 acres. 133 homes. 1 fatality.

Cause: Arson. Forest Service employee Terry Lynn Barton claimed she accidentally started the fire while burning a letter from her estranged husband in a campfire.

Old Fire

San Bernardino Mountains, California, 2003

Cost: $42 million

Destruction: 91,281 acres. 993 homes. 6 fatalities.

Cause: Arson. Rickie Lee Fowler was arrested in 2009 and convicted on five counts of murder and two counts of arson and was eventually sentenced to death for the convictions.

Slave Lake Wildfire

Slave Lake, Alberta, Canada, 2011

Cost: $700 million

Destruction: 1,200 acres. More than 400 homes and businesses. 1 fatality.

Cause: Arson. No arrests.

San Luis Rey Riverbed Fire

Oceanside, California 2014

Cost: $120,000

Destruction: 105 acres. 3 buildings with external damage.

Cause: Arson. Alberto Serrato charged.

Cass Lake Wildfire

Pike Bay, Minnesota, 2014

Cost: Unknown

Destruction: 76 acres

Cause: Arson. Teen charged with felony Wildfire Arson.

Awbrey Hall Fire

Bend, Oregon, 1990

Cost: $14 million.

Destruction: 3,353 acres. 22 homes.

Cause: Arson. Aaron Groshong arrested and charged with starting the Awbrey Hall Fire and seven other fires from 1990 to 1995.

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